The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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We recently went to visit a friend who had hamsters. She was concerned about the one hamster who was losing weight. She had never had hamsters before and was afraid she was doing something wrong. I wanted to help, so I contacted my vet friend to come and take a look and better explain why her hamster was losing weight.
It’s very troubling when your hamster starts losing weight; some of the reasons why a hamster might lose weight include stress, overgrown teeth, food or object stuck in its cheek pouch that it can’t get out, the wrong kind of food, not enough food and age-related sicknesses like cancer or diabetes.
Everyone wants their hamster to be happy and healthy, so we get worried when they suddenly start losing weight. It’s vital to understand why your hamster is losing weight and find a solution to this problem.
There are several reasons why a hamster loses weight, and I wanted to share the information my vet friend shared with me.
Why Is My Hamster Losing Weight?
When your hamster starts losing weight, it is vital to find the reason because if it keeps losing weight, it can become sick and eventually die. If you see your hamster is losing weight and none of the advice has worked, it would be best for the sake of your hamster to take it to a vet that specializes in small mammals.
Because hamsters are so tiny, there have been instances where hamsters have died after only a few days of losing weight. Below are some reasons why your hamster is losing weight:
1 – Low-Quality Food
One of the first reasons your hamster might lose weight could be that the food you are feeding is low-quality. You might wonder, but if the food is low-quality, why does my hamster keep eating it? When hamster food is poorly formulated, there might not be enough nutrients in the food to keep your hamster healthy.
Consequently, your hamster might be eating a full day’s worth of food, but the nutritional value is so low that it’s not getting the right balance of nutrition it needs to stay healthy. We know that a balanced diet is crucial to having a healthy body; the same is true for our tiny hamster friends.
For example: if we eat only bread without any fruits or veggies to add the balanced nutritional needs our bodies need to function, our stomachs might be satisfied, but if it’s low-quality food, over time, our health will suffer, and we will become sick.
2 – Not Enough Food
The second reason why your hamster might be losing weight is malnourishment. That means you might be giving your hamster the right food but not enough of it. Hamsters have very high metabolic rates and thus need to eat every two hours.
They are highly active, and this is why you need to stick to the right amount of food. If you are worried about giving your hammy too much kibble, you can give your hamster extra food like fruits or veggies to keep their little bodies in the best possible health.
If you see that the reason your hamster is losing weight is that you gave it the wrong portions of food (not enough), don’t beat yourself up about it. You can contact your vet to get the correct nutritional information for your hamster as well as the other types of food it can eat.
Your vet will also tell you to gradually increase the amount of food you feed your hamster because if you suddenly give it too much to eat, the hamsters might become sick because of the sudden increase in food.
3 – Other Health Issues
Underlying health issues is one of the more concerning reasons why your hamster might be losing weight. It is especially true if you have an older hamster. As hamsters get older, health-related issues will become more common.
Some hamsters will stop exercising and not want to move around a lot. It is concerning as it could be a sign of a bigger health problem. If you have ruled out the issues mentioned above, then it’s in your hamster’s best interest that you take it to a vet that specializes in small mammals for a check-up as soon as you can.
The vet will do a complete check-up and tell you if your hammy has a medical condition causing it to lose weight.
4 – Your Hamster Might Have Diabetes
Diabetes is a common health issue in hamsters, so if you’re worried your hamster might have blood sugar problems, here are some of the symptoms to look out for:
- If your hamster is losing weight
- If your hamster is drinking more water than usual
- If your hamster has constant urinary tract infections
- If you see your hamster with a wet bottom
- If your hamster is urinating more than usual
- If you see your hamster quickly developing cataracts
If you see any of these symptoms, you need to get your hamster checked out to get a proper diagnosis. The vet will also give you an appropriate diet for your hamster to follow as hamsters with diabetes need specific foods to keep their blood sugar balanced.
5 – Vitamin Deficiency
One of the primary reasons hamsters lose weight is vitamin deficiency. Even if you give your hamster the correct amount of food and the right kind of food, it might still have a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin B is one of the leading health concerns directly related to weight loss in hamsters.
You can check the food packaging to see the percentage of vitamins are in the food you give your hamster and get a supplement to ensure it gets the right amount of vitamins your hamster needs. Supplements will really help your hamster get back to a healthy weight.
6 – Too Much Exercise
Hamsters are incredibly high-energy mammals. They can run up to 5 miles of ground in a single night in the wild. That takes a lot of energy. Domesticated hamsters also need to run around the whole night; that’s why we buy wheels and hamster balls for them to get exercise and burn off some of that energy.
The problem arises when they get too much exercise. Hamsters can overexert themselves, leading to weight loss. It can be detrimental to a hamster’s health if it burns more calories than they take in.
They need exercise, but it needs to be limited if they lose weight. You can restrict your hamster’s time in its hamster ball or running wheel. It might seem unkind, but you need to do what’s best for them.
7 – Dental Problems
A hamsters’ teeth keep growing as they age, so if they have an overgrown tooth or if the tooth has grown into its cheek pouch, the hamster might have difficulty eating, and it will start to lose weight. Ingrown teeth might also lead to oral infections, making your hamster sicker.
8 – Hibernation
When the temperatures drop, hamsters want to hibernate. Hibernation in domesticated hamsters is dangerous, but it could cause them to lose weight because they get sluggish and stop eating right before they hibernate.
If you have ruled out the symptoms of everything else, you should keep a close eye on your hamster, and if you see any other signs of hibernation, you should take it to the vet because it can be hazardous to your hamster.
9 – Your Hamster Could Have Worms
If your hamster is eating enough food and the food is of excellent quality, but it’s still losing weight, your hamster might have worms. The worms will absorb the nutrients of the food your hamster eats, and it will lose weight.
The other sign your hamster might have worms is if it starts consuming its feces. Worms can be detrimental to your hamsters’ health.
10 – Your Hamster Can Have Mites
One reason that your hamsters can lose weight is mites. If you see the following signs, then your hamster might have mites:
- If your hamster has mites, it loses weight and loses hair.
- If your hamster doesn’t want to run and play.
- If your hamster looks like it’s in pain.
- If your hamster scratches incessantly.
- If your hamster looks lethargic and slow-moving.
- If your hamster has thick, yellowed skin that is crusty.
Hamsters with mites can become ill and even die if they don’t get help quickly. So if you see two or more of the symptoms mentioned above, you should get your hammy to a vet immediately.
11 – Anxiety and Stress
Stress can also be a reason for your hamster’s weight loss. Stress and anxiety can diminish your hamster’s appetite and cause it to lose weight. Hamsters get stressed when you move them to a new cage or change the layout of their enclosure.
Contrary to belief, hamsters are solitary mammals. They only tolerate other hamsters in the wild when it’s mating season. If you have multiple hamsters or pets in the same enclosure, it might stress the hamster out more.
Hamsters stress when they live in improper conditions or enclosures. For example, hamsters need at least 6000 square inches of uninterrupted floor space in their cage. They can get anxious and stressed if they don’t have enough space to explore.
12 – Hamsters Lose Weight with Age
Hamsters will naturally lose weight as they grow older. They will eat and move less often when they get older. As your hamster grows older, you need to adjust its diet to compensate for the weight loss and more nutrient-rich hamster foods.
You can add extra veggies and fruits to your hamsters’ diet as they grow older.
How to Help Your Hamster Pick Up Weight and Get Healthy
If you want your hamster to stop losing weight, there are a few things you can do to help your hamster get healthy again. Here are a few solutions to help your hamster pick the weight back up.
Give the Right Food
One major factor that can make hamsters lose weight is low-quality food. You should check with a vet to ensure the food you are giving your hamster meets its nutritional needs. You can provide a supplement to ensure your hamster gets the right balance of vitamins and minerals to keep healthy.
You can also supplement your hamsters’ food with fresh fruits and veggies to give your hamster a more balanced diet.
Check Your Hamster’s Weight Regularly
It’s always better to prevent health problems in your hamsters rather than try to cure them. One way to stop a hamster from losing too much weight is to weigh it at least once every few days.
By keeping track of your hamsters’ weight, you can catch weight loss before your hamster gets too sick.
Hamsters need lots of floor space in their enclosure to mimic their natural environment as they can explore and run up to 5 miles in a night. They also love to dig and need bedding deep enough for them to burrow in.
Their enclosure needs to have enough ventilation to keep them healthy and ensure proper airflow.
Deworming Your Hamster
You can get your hamster dewormed by the vet. Your hamster might have a loose stool for a few days, but once the dewormer has worked its way through your hamsters’ system, it will start to eat better and pick up weight quickly.
No matter what symptoms your hamster has besides weight loss, if the weight loss persists for more than two days, you need to call a vet or take your hamster for a check-up and tests to find the problem.
It’s always concerning when your hamster loses weight. There are many reasons why hamsters lose weight. It can be low-quality food, a nutrient or vitamin deficiency, oral issues, or an underlying illness, to name a few. If you are unsure of the problem, you need to take your hamster to the vet.
You could supplement your hamster’s diet to help it pick the weight back up if the issue was minor and easy to correct. You can also ensure your hamster cage stays at the right temperature so it won’t trigger its hibernation instincts.